In a tight race for Baltimore County executive, Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III declared victory last night over incumbent Roger B. Hayden. Executive races in other counties were mostly lopsided.
Mr. Ruppersberger's win last night unseated the county's first Republican county executive since Spiro Agnew.
His victory, in which he captured 53 percent of the vote with almost all votes counted, returned the county's top seat to Democrats, who outnumber Republicans by 2 1/2 -1.
Mr. Hayden, having battled a tough recession throughout his four years as Baltimore County executive, was the target of repeated criticism by Mr. Ruppersberger.
The 48-year-old Democrat blamed Mr. Hayden's weak leadership for a series of layoffs and closings throughout the county.
In Anne Arundel, where candidates John G. Gary and Theodore J. Sophocleus were expected to be locked in a tight race, Mr. Sophocleus conceded a quick defeat to campaign workers about 9:20 p.m. Mr. Gary -- a state delegate for the last 12 years who operates a Millersville custom drapery business -- won with 53 percent of the vote to succeed outgoing executive Robert R. Neall.
"I can't figure this one out," a bitter, dejected Mr. Sophocleus said, expressing bewilderment over having led in the polls. "The voters have spoken. I only hope they understand what they have done."
In Howard and Harford counties, where the impact of growth was the main issue, incumbents won decisive victories against underdog challengers.
Harford's Eileen M. Rehrmann, a Democrat, won with slightly more than 60 percent of the vote.
Republican Charles I. Ecker, the Howard County incumbent, won a nearly 2-to-1 victory over Democratic challenger Susan B. Gray, who argued the county had grown enough in recent years and should rescind plans for further expansion.
Mr. Ecker, who won in a shocking upset over former county executive Elizabeth Bobo in 1990, is only the second executive in Howard County history to win a second term.
Ms. Gray was largely unknown to voters until she entered the race minutes before the filing deadline July 5.
She told voters that slowing the county's growth was the major issue in the campaign and that she planned to fire the county director of public works, the county director of planning and zoning, and the county solicitor upon election.
In Harford County, incumbent Democrat Eileen M. Rehrmann easily won re-election last night.
Mrs. Rehrmann was claiming victory slightly after 9 p.m. at her Bel Air campaign headquarters as her supporters played the song, "Taking Care of Business."
"They want me to take care of business tonight," Mrs. Rehrmann said, "but I think we are going to celebrate tonight."
Mrs. Rehrmann was challenged by Republican Ronald M. Szczybor, a businessman and former stockbroker whose vitriolic campaign rhetoric seemed to alienate many voters. He had attacked Mrs. Rehrmann by saying she was beholden to developers.
In Carroll County, where three seats for county commissioner were up for grabs, the three Republicans -- Donald I. Dell, Richard T. Yates, and W. Benjamin Brown -- grabbed the three seats from three Democratic challengers.
In the race for executive in Prince George's County, gubernatorial candidate Parris N. Glendening's choice for his successor -- Wayne Curry -- won easily over Republican candidate Robert B. Ostrom by a 2-1 margin.
In Montgomery County, where sparks flew during a heated campaign between the candidates, Douglas M. Duncan had a strong lead over GOP challenger Stephen N. Abrams.